Wednesday, 9 June 2010


Wednesday 9 June: Not in my original plan but as soon as I saw a map of Dali I knew that I wanted to go there. Any town with an ancient wall around it's old centre must be worth a visit - Zwolle in the Netherlands, Chaing Mai in Thailand, York in England.
Dali was the original backpacker destination in Yunnan and it's easy to see why - ancient walled city with magnificent gatehouses and pretty little streams set beneath mountains dotted with temples and pagodas - and cannabis plants growing wild by the road and lakeside.
At the friendly Jade Emu Guesthouse I get an en-suite room for the price of a dorm (40 yuan) and enjoy a traditional hotpot dinner buffet.
In the old town packs of Chinese tourists, too lazy to walk, are driven around in electric 'golf' buggies and tradesmen are rebuilding the ancient walls with reinforced concrete faced with 'traditional' stone cladding. It's Disneyland style tourism again - but even so I like the place.
An old shopkeepers tells me the story of Ziya Jiang who lived a humble life with all his ambitions unachieved. One day, when he was about to eat, a God bird flew to him and pecked his hand three times. He plucked the two twigs of bamboo on which the bird had perched to eat his meal. The sticks began to smoke indicating that the meat was toxic. Jiang used his two sticks at mealtimes ever since and this is how chopsticks came to be. They not only saved his life but brought him good fortune and he was soon appointed prime minister to king Wen of the Zhou Dynasty (1066-256BC). Since then chopsticks have always been presented as a good luck gift - "Would you like to buy some from my shop?".
Photos of Dali.

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